The second in a series of webinars hosted by Goge Africa held on 2nd August. Anchored on the theme “Cross-Sectoral Collaboration for Tourism and Economic Development”, participants – who include angel investors, venture capitalists, financial institutions and Nigerians in the Diaspora — say they are keen to invest in multiple sectors of the Nigerian economy, and at the earliest opportunity.
Though Nigeria has attracted some Foreign Direct Investment over the years, participants mad it clear that the cumulative investments are nowhere near the vast opportunities that abound in the country, and that includes its tourism eco-system, colourful culture and wildlife and physical features (Forest vegetation, landscape and more).
And in spite of advances in technology and an increasing culture of travel globally, Nigeria isn’t a choice destination for tourists and investors when compared with several countries in Africa. Toki Mabogunje, President Lagos Chamber of Commerce, observed that this dearth in investment can be traced to infrastructural deficit, image crisis, inadequate policies, institutional bottlenecks and security challenges. She argues that this can only be realized through the development of tourism destinations, road networks, liberalization and reforms of the country’s visa process, and security.
According to R. Toby Bailey, CEO at Borg Investment Bank (USA), Africa is a key territory on the global map and holds a strategic position for investors. This assertion is backed by the promises and riches of untapped minerals, massive human and capital resources inherent to the continent. Bailey says his organization is interested in investing, wholly or partially towards exploiting this potential in Africa, specifically in refining and mining of Gold; the biggest film industry in Africa, Nollywood; transportation, banking, insurance and healthcare.
Building a fact-based brand
But to maximise these opportunities, speakers say, Nigeria needs to work on creating its own defining narratives. At the moment, the narratives that drive people’s perception of it have been curated by outsiders. Unfortunately, these narratives are not factual when placed with realities in other parts of the world.
Countering this narrative according to Brian n Ebden, a Brand & Strategy Consultant, is achievable through the proper placement of facts. Also, it is pertinent to identify a unique selling proposition, placing Nigeria at advantage over other destinations. This he pointed, would attract tourism traffic.
The Akwa Ibom Model
Besides this, achieving the enviable position of tourism and investment destination requires the quasi-intervention of the government through the creation of an enabling environment for tourism development and seamless business operation. The Akwa Ibom State government appears to recognize this; going by the submissions of the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Charles Udoh, the state is developing and implementing various policies toward transforming the state from a public-service oriented economy to a private sector steered economy. According to Udoh, Akwa Ibom is the second largest destination for foreign direct investment in Nigeria, boasting 18 viable industries including the largest syringe producing company in Africa.
Udoh also stated that the state aims to grow three key industries: manufacturing, tourism and agriculture and it is providing the much desired level-playing field for investors, enhanced security and critical infrastructures. Some of its critical infrastructural projects include: the Ibom Deep-Sea Port, Ibom Air, world class medical facilities, standard hospitality facilities and an efficient road network.
Stimulating tourism traffic
Robert Alexander (CEO of 360Wise Media (USA), pointed out that while the government has her responsibilities to the people, government has nothing to do with any rebranding agenda. The best way of marketing and branding the African continent, he added, to stimulate tourism traffic is for these communication efforts to emanate from where the most travel would be coming from.
Sir Joe Madu (President USA-Africa Chamber of Commerce) says the solutions lies in collaboration rather than isolating oneself from others. Defining the Diaspora as 99.9% humanity, he urged everyone to identify and define their value proposition, goal, differential and competitive advantage. Leveraging on these, he said, would bring about capacity-building in socially responsible projects back home including medical, religious and academic tourism.
He also made a case for acquiring life skills in addition to academic degrees. These critical skill sets: self-awareness, perceptive, active listening, critical thinking, decision-making, effective communication, empathy, situational awareness are necessary to facilitate business and tourism. The Nigerian society is currently faced with the challenges of depression, suicide and other mental and business-related issues. Developing these skills not only enhances business, personal wellness and responsibility, but also safety for all.
Find your ‘Why?’
In his presentation, eleven-year-old Ambassador Paolo Ben Salmi said with the challenges Nigeria faces with attracting tourists and boosting domestic tourism, the country will first have to define it “why?” The country’s predicament, he argued, stemmed from the fact that “we’ve lost our why for why people should come here…in order to attract people to Nigeria; we have to find our why, and plant the seed for the future generations”.
The Goge Africa webinars have one overriding objective: To make Nigeria the “Eldorado of Africa and World Tourism/Investment Destination” and attracting investors from countries in Africa and the Diaspora.